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Austin Takes Major Steps Forward On Transgender Rights

Stabler

Austin on Thursday became the first city in Texas — and the 43rd in the nation — to add transgender-inclusive health benefits for employees.

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution adding trans-inclusive benefits — including primary care, hormone therapy, mental health care and surgical care — beginning in 2015. 

The council also voted to require business owners to install signage indicating that single-stall restrooms are gender-neutral, and approved a resolution on pregnancy guidelines that specifically includes transmen.

From trans activist and HRC board member Meghan Stabler (above), who lives in Austin: 

BREAKING: Today, the Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution directing the City Manager to incorporate transgender-inclusive benefits as part of the City employee benefits package in the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 proposed budget. Specifically the City Council approved three trans* friendly items:

Ordinance — single occupancy gender neutral restroom signage now required.

Resolutions:
— Directs city manager to incorporate Trans-inclusive health benefits for city employees as part of Fiscal year 2015-16 proposed budget
— Directs city manager to examine workforce practices in other cities regarding personnel policies for **pregnancy-capable** employees & develop recommendations for implementation to council May 1st 2015. – note that the resolution specifically includes transmen.

Express thanks go out to CCM Mike Martinez and Chris Riley for steering this through for the vote. There were several local advocates involved in this for months, well done.

The trans-inclusive benefits were opposed by the Travis County Taxpayers Association, and gender-neutral restrooms faced opposition from the anti-LGBT group Texas Values and its President Jonathan Saenz, according to a recent report from KTBC-TV

“Legally, politically and financially, this is not a smart move by the city of Austin,” Saenz said. "There are major privacy issues and safety issues when we deal with these type of transgender bathroom issues and we’ve seen them come up in Houston and San Antonio, where women are concerned about sharing or having to use a restroom where maybe a man’s gonna come in before or after them, you have small children and little girls.”

Jimmy Flannigan, an openly gay City Council candidate, has also come under attack from his opponent for supporting the gender-neutral restroom proposal. 

But Thursday's actions by the City Council only further solidify Austin's reputation as the queerest city in Texas. 

Next up? Rainbow crosswalks

Crosswalks


Gay-Friendly Corporations Refuse To Come Out Against 'License To Discriminate' Bills In Texas

LTD

Eight companies with perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index have contributed money to the campaign of Texas Republican Sen. Donna Campbell (above right), the author of legislation that seeks to enshrine a "license to discriminate" in the state Constituion. 

But none of these otherwise gay-friendly companies have come out in opposition to SJR 10, which Campbell filed early last month.

The Texas Observer reports: 

“SJR 10 is one of thousands of bills filed, we will weigh in and comment on bills when and if they are scheduled for hearing,” said Mona Taylor, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based AT&T Inc., which contributed $5,000 to Campbell’s campaign through its PAC this year.

Other companies with perfect HRC scores that have contributed to Campbell’s campaign in the last year include General Motors Co. ($2,500), Citigroup Inc. ($1,500), UnitedHealth Group Inc. ($,1000), the Raytheon Co. ($1,000), Merck & Co. ($1,000), Genentech Inc. ($750) and Astellas Pharma Inc. ($500).

On Monday, Plano added itself to the list of cities in Texas that have passed ordinances banning anti-LGBT discrimination. Two days later, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas (above left), filed a House version of Campbell's "license to discriminate" bill — and another lawmaker is threatening to introduce a similar measure, The Observer reports. 
 
Experts say the legislation would severely limit cities' ability to enforce nondiscrimination ordinances, since any business owner could claim an exemption if they have "a sincerely held religious belief." But the unintended consequences of the constitutional amendment could be far worse, according to Equality Texas' Daniel Williams.
 
Texas already has a statute, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that provides strong protections for religious freedom. But the proposed amendments would supplant the RFRA and go much further, overriding the statute's exceptions for things like zoning regulations and civil rights laws, according to The Observer
 

“A church or a synagogue or a mosque could conceivably be built anywhere with no concern to traffic flow or how much parking is available or building codes,” Williams said. “There are butchers that butcher in accordance with very specific religious laws, and they’re able to do that, but the city and the state enforce environmental protections that ensure we don’t wind up with giant ponds of blood in residential neighborhoods. If you take away the ability of cities to enforce those, it’s going to have an enormous negative impact on the quality of life for everyone in that area.”

Williams said Campbell has introduced similar measures in three previous legislative sessions. Given the senator's penchant for seeking to enshrine a "license to discriminate" in the state Constitution, the companies' campaign contributions could reasonably be interpreted as an endorsement of the legislation — at least until they publicly state otherwise. 


Out Austin City Council Candidate Targeted By Anti-gay Opponent Who Linked Homosexuality To Pedophilia

Flannigan

 

An openly gay Austin City Council candidate is under attack for supporting marriage equality and a recently passed ordinance requiring single-stall bathrooms to be gender-neutral. 

Flannigan.JimmyJimmy Flannigan (above right), former president of the Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, is in a runoff for the District 6 Austin City Council seat on Dec. 16. 

Flannigan's opponent, Don Zimmerman (below right), is a tea party candidate and an anti-gay extremist who has compared homosexuality to pedophilia and incest. 

Stonewall Democrats of Austin provided Towleroad with a copy of the mailer sent by the anti-gay group Texas Values Action. (Texas Values Action is led by Jonathan Saenz, whose wife famously left him for a woman.)

The mailer, shown above, highlights the fact that Zimmerman opposes both same-sex marriage and the "Transgender Bathroom Ordinance," while Flannigan supports them. 

Stonewall Democrats of Austin issued the following statement in response to the mailer: 

“Now that the finish line to the City Council run-off is in sight, its ‘here we go again’ with inflammatory and divisive rhetoric intended to suggest that LGBTQ people are anti-family. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, wake up Mr. Saenz, you are in Austin and its 2014.

"Rather, anybody who has heard Jimmy Flannigan knows that he talks about the real family values that are important to Austin and District 6.  In Jimmy Flannigan’s Real Solutions for District 6, he has ideas for fighting traffic, tax relief, affordability, improving public safety, smart growth and streamlining city government.

"Jimmy Flannigan cares about and will work for all families, regardless of their composition or political affiliation. Flannigan’s ability to unify and lead is exactly what our community needs as we address the challenges that face our city. The Austin Chronicle, the Austin American Statesman and over 20 community organizations have endorsed Jimmy Flannigan as the best choice for District 6. We are proud to be among them.”

Zimmerman.DonIt's not the first time Flannigan, who's vying to become Austin's first gay council member since 2011, has been the target of anti-gay attacks. In the general election, another candidate sent a mailer highlighting the fact that Flannigan is single and once led the gay chamber. 

Zimmerman, meanwhile, wrote a column oppopsing same-sex marriage for Texas Insider last year. In the column, Zimmerman traced homosexuality to the Cretans who lived circa 1650 B.C. and "celebrated the practice of harpagmos – the ritual kidnapping of a noble boy by an adult male of the aristocratic class":

Unlike some of Jerry Sandusky’s victims, the Cretan boys were believed to be pubescent (teenage), having a father’s consent, and having some conditions for refusing the adult male’s advances.  In any case, cultural and legislative acceptance of homosexual partnerships isn’t recent – it’s ancient!

Todays’ Democrats should at least privately admit such harpagmos as progressive, since it would end another discriminatory barrier to “having sex with the one you love” – a barrier the rest of us call the “age of consent”.  Today’s Republicans might also consider – as GOP Senators newly consent to SSM, that ancient homosexual practices could be couched as conserving tradition. ... 

If the SSM principle really is discrimination, progressives should battle against opposite sex marriage discrimination – but in fact we hear no objection to laws prohibiting brother and sister, or mother and son, from being married to have a “stable, loving family." 

Read Zimmerman's full column here


Austin Police Department Welcomes First Openly Transgender Officer: VIDEO

Picture 3Austin Police Department's Senior Officer Greg Abbink introduced himself as the first openly transgender man on the Austin police force during his Transgender Day of Remembrance speech outside of Austin's city hall on Thursday reports KXAN News. Officer Abbink, who joined the force a decade ago as Emily, officially changed his name this past spring. This year also marks the first time a transgender officer was chosen from APD's Lesbian and Gay Police Officers Association to deliver the speech.

Said Abbink:

“I was honored when I was asked to speak,” said Abbink. “I can’t imagine the city of Austin or the Austin Police Department, for that matter, being any more supportive than they are. I consider APD my family. They are truly my brothers and sisters.”

Officer Abbink says coming out as transgender comes with its own challenges, but recognizes there are certain rewards that come with it as well.

Added Abbink:

“I didn’t do this for anyone other than me, and I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I had to do this to be the best person that I can be, so that I can serve the public — the city of Austin — to the best of my ability.

"I'd like to be a role model if I can."

Watch Officer Abbink's interview with KNAX, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Austin Police Department Welcomes First Openly Transgender Officer: VIDEO" »


Mark Regnerus 'Study': Pro-LGBT Christians More Likely To Support Polygamy, Casual Sex - VIDEO

Mark regenerus

Discredited anti-gay "researcher" Mark Regnerus, who previously claimed that children of gay parents had higher rates of life problems compared to those raised by heterosexual parents, has published a new "study" which aims to demonstrate that pro-LGBT Christians will lead to an immoral, sexually unrestrained world, reports GLAAD.

An internal audit of Regnerus’ previous study of same-sex parenting concluded that it barely studied gay parents, contained no original research, had a “highly unusual” timeline with an “unseemly rush to publication” and that all three of the report's peer-reviewers had ties to the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute that funded the study to begin with.

Regnerus' latest blog post - also published by the Witherspoon Institute - is titled Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Marriage Future and relies on "the Relationships in America survey, a data collection project...that interviewed 15,738 Americans, ages 18-60, in early 2014."

According to Regnerus, the survey asked respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with seven statements:

1. Viewing pornographic material is OK.

2. It is a good idea for couples considering marriage to live together in order to decide whether or not they get along well enough to be married to one another.

3. It is OK for two people to get together for sex and not necessarily expect anything further.

4. If a couple has children, they should stay married unless there is physical or emotional abuse.

5. It is sometimes permissible for a married person to have sex with someone other than his/her spouse.

6. It is OK for three or more consenting adults to live together in a sexual/romantic relationship.

7. I support abortion rights.

The University of Texas at Austin sociology professor reports that "there is a pretty obvious fissure between Christians who do and do not oppose same-sex marriage. More than seven times as many of the latter think pornography is OK. Three times as many back cohabiting as a good idea, six times as many are OK with no-strings-attached sex, five times as many think adultery could be permissible, thirteen times as many have no issue with polyamorous relationships, and six times as many support abortion rights."

In a Box Turtle Bulletin analysis of Regnerus' new study, Jim Burroway says that Regnerus, interprets a chart provided without context and few caveats as follows: Regnerus-Graph

“If more and more people, including church-going Christians, continue to come around to supporting marriage equality, then more and more people, including church-going Christians, are going to begin supporting...polygamy. Or anything-goes sex. Or the breakdown of the family through divorce. Or unlimited abortion. And so on.”

Burroway goes on to provide his own explanation for Regnerus’ findings:

Those who oppose marriage equality are much more likely to be the kinds of busybodies with Deeply Held Beliefs about how other people should live their lives. They may say they they oppose pre-marital sex, extra-martial sex, no-strings sex, and getting divorced despite having children — for other people — but they will wind up doing those many of those Very Bad Things themselves at rates rather similar to, and in some cases (divorce, for example) higher than many other people, despite what they may say in a survey.

Conversely, those who support marriage equality are more likely to have a healthier, more laissez-faire attitude toward how other people order their lives, and they tend to be much less judgmental of other people. And gays and lesbians, who have experienced a lifetime of busybodies giving them unrealistic, unsolicited edicts in how to order their lives, are the most reluctant of all to turn around and do the same to others. And what about the Population Average? Well, nobody likes a busybody.

Watch an interview with Regnerus on his previously debunked study, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mark Regnerus 'Study': Pro-LGBT Christians More Likely To Support Polygamy, Casual Sex - VIDEO" »


The Heterosexuality Experiment: VIDEO

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 9.43.36 AM

Youtuber Joseph Costello has conducted what he calls a "heterosexuality experiment" wherein he made his way around Austin, Texas asking people if they would vote for a heterosexual president. In doing so, he discovered that there are homophobes in that city who don't even know the definition of the word "heterosexuality."

Watch Costello's ignorant interviewees (some more disturbing than others) give their answers, AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "The Heterosexuality Experiment: VIDEO" »


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